To answer the question: because it will benefit all Australians. Universal design features are easy to implement, and largely cost neutral. The two Royal Commissions related to aged care and disability care found that inaccessible housing prevented people from remaining at home and living independently. That’s why we need UD features in housing. However, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions in this space.
Universal design is about creating resilient, flexible and sustainable housing. These features will increase general amenity and allow people to age in place. For people with a disability, it will allow them to live independently.
It has to be regulated across the housing building system so that the process stays efficient. There are too many stakeholders to consider in one-off exceptions. Basic access features are now included in the 2022 edition of the National Construction Code. To date, not all states have adopted these features.
Jane Bringolf addresses some of the common myths and misunderstandings in her article, Why do we need universal design features in all new housing? Myths and comments include:
- only a few people need it
- I’ll worry about it when the time comes
- it costs too much
- it will look like a hospital
Why homebuyers don’t get universal design
“We will build it if they ask for it” say the builders. But do they want home buyers to ask for it? And would they build it? The new home selling process relies on capturing the client’s personal and emotional commitment to the home before they sign the contract. And how do they do that? By getting them to choose the colours and styles of fixtures and fittings first. Once that happens the client becomes emotionally committed. The sale is made. Too late to consider universal design features – even if customers knew what they were.
This insight comes from an article in Sourceable by Darren Love. The title of the article is, Responsibility before Profit. It critiques the selling methods that builders use in this highly competitive market where cost cutting is part of the process. The article clearly explains why we cannot rely on the mass market housing industry to offer anything more than a choice of colour and upgrades to fixtures and fittings.